With energy revenue down, Wyoming state finances are tight and that has lawmakers looking for ways to streamline spending. Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration is responsible for figuring out how that works. One place they are looking is K-12 education. Senator Dave Kinskey serves on the committee. He said he wants to be sure Wyoming is getting the most bang for its buck.
The Wyoming Constitution guarantees students receive a quality education. The components of that quality education are called the basket of goods, which includes math, reading and science, and things like art, music, and foreign language. But each component has a cost, which has the recalibration committee grappling with if they could provide less in order to spend less, and still guarantee a quality education?
In order to figure this out, the committee has enlisted the help of APA Consulting to look at Wyoming’s rankings on national assessments like the ACT test, and how state funding impacts those across the board. But Representative Albert Sommers, who co-chairs the recalibration committee, said the lifelong benefits of broad educational opportunities might not be conveyed in test results.
“There are lots of kids out there that have different interests. We can’t provide everything. We are a small state. We can’t provide 5 foreign languages in some small school,” said Sommers. “We can’t do it economically, but should we provide foreign language at all? Now that’s the question.”
In addition to statistical analysis and state comparisons that APA Consulting is bringing to the table, Sommers said this decision should be informed by the people of Wyoming.
“What do we want to provide? And what I hope is that we don’t go backwards in time and we provide less of a basket of goods than when I went to school. I had my 40th reunion this summer. Band and music and art were all offered when I went to school 40 years,” Sommers said.
He said he doesn’t want those things cut if it can be avoided. Consultants will be hosting public meetings across Wyoming in the coming months to hear from the public about which educational programs they value. In addition to teachers, school administrators, and families, the committee is encouraging business leaders and retirees who benefited from Wyoming education to also weigh in.